Climate & energy

Biofuel

The production of energy from renewable biological sources such as wood is as old as mankind.

The creation of liquid fuels from grains, oil seeds, straw and wood is a much more recent development driven mostly by mandates, tax breaks and subsidies. Many countries are now producing biofuels with the US and Brasil - the largest producers in the ethanol market - and the EU in the biodiesel market.

Biofuels have been touted as an important part of the solution to climate change. However, their Green House Gas reduction benefits, which have been much praised, are based on flawed carbon accounting.

Biofuels are given a carbon benefit by assuming that if crops had not been grown for fuel, there would have been no other vegetation to absorb the carbon. And they are not held accountable for the carbon cost that arises when land is claimed as a result of their expansion.